The Question Ever by Wendy Videlock (though I feel the urge to note that 'glove' and 'of' do not rhyme in my accent)
Diss by Makaila Dean
Upon Receiving My Inheritance by William Fargason
What I've read: short fiction
Nevertheless, She Persisted - a collection of 11 flash fiction pieces for International Women's Day
For me, the standouts were:
Heart Stitch by Jose Pablo Iriarte
The Redshirt's Daughter by Evan Dicken
Attending Your Own Funeral: An Etiquette Guide by Erica L. Satifka
Bride by Mistake by Nicole Helm (novella-length romance)
Mira's Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Penric & Desdemona 4). This just happened to show up when I was checking Hugo-eligibility of the previous two Penric & Desdemona novellas. While the first three had quite long gaps of time between them, this one follows almost straight on from the previous, and leaves more than one plot thread unresolved by the end.
What I've read: long fiction
Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch (reread)
Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch (reread)
The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
I had a couple of days where I really was too ill to do anything but doze or read, and inhaled these latest three. The endings all struck me as particularly abrupt on this read through, the general destruction-level is getting ridiculous even with authorial lampshading, and there are really a lot of loose threads in play now. (But I still enjoyed them all very much.)
The Long List Anthology Volume 2 edited by David Steffen - I was surprised just how many of the short stories collected within I'd read - and surprised by a couple I'd not read but really should have. Anyway, the quality level so far is excellent.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I am ... not enjoying this as much as I expected. It is feeding my thirst for more information about Dorothy Vaughan (in particular) and the other women from the film and NACA/NASA more generally, but its style is both a bit too chatty and a bit too florid for my liking. Or possibly having two bad colds in three weeks is making me bad-tempered and uncharitable. Listening to the audiobook version doesn't seem to wind me up the same way, so I'm going to try listening the rest of the way through.
Bride by Mistake by Nicole Helm
Mira's Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Tony bought Digital Divide by K.B. Spangler, which has been on my radar for a while, so I may sneak a read of it. (And/or go back to working through A Girl and Her Fed by same.)
I preordered Provenance by Ann Leckie (out in October) and The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch (out in September).
Gor blimey, guvnor!
A prominent contributor to the open source Drupal content management system has been asked to distance himself from project because "his belief system is inconsistent with [the] project's goals."
Contact me via private means if you wish; my gmail address is pretty easy to guess from my username, and I have been known to use Dreamwidth private messages as well.
If I were to do a mini-gamebook (~100 sections) just for fun as a side project, it should be about:
a sequel to Winterstrike (StoryNexus game)
non-hexarchate space opera
something else that I will explain in comments
ticky the talky tea tocky!
For reference: Winterstrike is now completely free to play (all the previously Nex-locked options are now free options, which should make it play faster!).
Johnny Depp to play John McAfee in biopic depicting A-V man as Colonel Kurtz
POLL Nobody's confirmed anything except Big Mac himself, but John McAfee reckons he's going to be played by Captain Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp.…
I don't believe that anymore.
I came to this thought by way of games. For the longest time--an embarrassingly long time--I tried to learn chess the wrong way. The pageantry and imagery of chess, the fluff if you will, fascinated me: queens and knights and kings, rooks that looked like castles. I was very young when I had my first encounter with chess, and I developed this conviction that because the imagery of chess was based on medieval warfare, understanding medieval warfare would help me understand how to win chess.
(Those of you who do play chess are laughing. Hell, those of you who don't play chess are laughing. I know, I know!)
There are all sorts of things that an interest in medieval warfare will get you, but playing better chess is not one of them. I presume medieval knights did not get around the battlefield by jumping in L-shapes. On the other hand, chess knights never have to worry about broken lances or drowning in their own blood if their helmets get smashed in. (I read about that somewhere--whether it actually happened, I don't know. I don't remember the source.)
One thing is clear, though. The "failure" of chess to simulate medieval warfare in a mimetic sense has nothing to do with how successful, or immersive, it is as a game.
Video games are another example. These days a lot--not all, but a lot--of games sport beautifully rendered graphics that make my aging computer cry. The vocabulary of game graphics became so embedded in my thought processes that I have on multiple occasions had beautifully rendered dreams where I thought, Wow, that's some amazing polygon count there. (I have lucid dreams sometimes.)
Yet I remember being addicted to games with crude pixellated graphics back when I was in high school. I will own that one of those games was the Gold Box game Azure Bonds, which we picked up a bootleg of from an entrepreneurial fellow student when I was in Korea. (Something like two decades later, I caved and bought a legitimate copy from Good Old Games.) There was something jinxed about the bootleg's graphics, and it wasn't just the pixellation, which was how the game was supposed to come. No; something about the bootleg caused all the colors to load up in shades of sky blue, aquamarine, and lavender. (Given the title of the game, perhaps not entirely unfitting!) Nevertheless, the crudeness of the graphics and the eye-searing colors didn't destroy my enjoyment of the game. We never beat it (even today I haven't beat it!), but we spent hours killing trolls for bounty, trying to figure out how to outwit a black dragon, and prowling through the labyrinthine halls of Zhentil Keep. It's been rare that a more modern computer roleplaying game, despite the high-powered graphics, has been able to keep my attention in the same way.
The more books I read, to say nothing of book reviews, the more I become convinced that immersion in sf/f, as in games, is not a function of "realism" or even, necessarily, of meticulous worldbuilding. What a given reader will find acceptable--"plausible"--seems to be a function of familiarity or preexisting prejudice. We have hordes of hard sf books where faster-than-light drives are casually referenced; Jack Campbell's (excellent) military sf adventures have ships maneuvering at significant percentages of the speed of light yet the Lorentzian contraction factor never comes into play. The message I take from this is to choose what matters to you, and don't worry about the rest, because there is no such thing as perfect worldbuilding. I am not even convinced that perfect worldbuilding of the intensely time-consuming Tolkienian type is always desirable. Certainly it is sometimes desirable (it is difficult to argue with Tolkien's success!). But that doesn't mean it is the only storytelling mode that can work.
We accept all kinds of compromises with reality as part of the "speculative" part of speculative fiction. If you're telling a branching-lives story about how a woman's life might have played out if she had come to different decisions about how to handle her best friend's illness, is it all that realistic from a quantum mechanical "many-worlds" hypothesis standpoint that all the branches being explored have to do with her emotional crisis? When I'm reading a Warhammer 40,000 adventure in the grimdark future, does it really matter that the Latin is distorted in odd ways? If I had to read every line of dialogue in footnotes in a work that sought to represent pervasive multilingualism, would it really enhance my pleasure in the story, as opposed to concessions to the author and reader's actual shared language(s) and the occasional too-good-to-resist pun that exists in English but probably not as well in the constructed language of your choice?
Different readers care about different worldbuilding details; different writers care about different worldbuilding details, and both groups have differing areas of expertise. What's more, a given story may not rely in the slightest on a realistic depiction of its setting. I can watch Suits and enjoy the banter and office politics because I don't have the faintest clue how a law firm runs, but some of my friends are lawyers and they have all told me that they can't stand that show. Suits might perhaps best be considered a fantasy (in the loose sense of the term) only vaguely using the furniture of a law firm as a backdrop for its exchanges and power plays. If Suits had been written--worldbuilt--with greater attention to how law firms and legal negotiations actually work, it wouldn't do thing one to enhance my enjoyment of the show. That level of mimesis in that particular area is simply not relevant.
In its way, a story can be likened to a model. And no model can perfectly replicate the original, or it wouldn't be a model anymore. As an author, I want to carefully choose where I expend my effort building a world. If the story is mostly concerned about gardening, there might be much discussion of mulch, weather patterns, and slugs, but less care taken with the provenance of the yarn that shows up in a one-line throwaway. Not every aspect of a story can be rendered with equal depth, nor should it be. When I spend a lot of time on that mulch, and very little on the yarn, I am signaling to the reader what is important in this particular story. (And also saving myself time researching fancy yarns. As an ex-knitter, I have been that route!)
It is not that worldbuilding is bad. It is that worldbuilding is a tool, like any other--to be used judiciously.
(yes I know I'm a massive hypocrite)
A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.
Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.
Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so.
I’ll be honest, I would have loved to sell a story to this particular editor and venue, but the story I had written didn’t match the tone and style of the venue. I appreciate them taking a chance on reading the story, but they have every right to turn it down. It’s their job to turn it down. Because it wasn’t the right story for them.
I have another project my agent has been shopping around. We’ve gotten some very nice rejections, generally saying things like it’s not quite right for that particular line, or it’s close but this or that or the other didn’t work for them.
In a slightly older example, I had a friend reject me because the story I’d written utterly missed what they were looking for in the guidelines.
Does it still sting? Sure. Twenty-two years into this, I still hate getting rejections. But I’m not unrealistic enough to think every word I write is made of gold and perfectly-suited to all editors and publishers in the world, bar none. Sometimes I’m able to sell the rejected work elsewhere, to an editor/venue that’s a better fit. Sometimes I’m not.
That’s how the business works. Even after 12 books and 50+ short stories in print. Not because the editors are misguided or wrong or blind to my brilliance, but because they’re doing their jobs.
As someone who’s currently on both sides of the desk (co-editing Invisible 3 with Mary Anne Mohanraj as well as continuing to write my own stuff), let’s keep in mind that being a good editor is hard, just like being a good writer.
As for those rejections? I recommend three things.
- Get the story back out there.
- Keep working on the next one.
- Eat ice cream as necessary.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
My interest in game design comes partly from screwing around with game design, as you might expect; past efforts have included parser IF (interactive fiction--think text adventures like Zork), a really terrible Monopoly mod involving thoroughbred racing, and a fantasy adventure game that inadvertently resembled Talisman more than it had any right to. It also partly comes from the intersection of game-as-narrative and narrative-for-writing, and partly from my fascination with game designer John Wick's statement that roleplaying games are the most immersive form of storytelling because they're the only kind in which the audience is also the author. (Something like that. I'll try to dig up the exact quote sometime.)
So, here are the good things about Rules of Play: it is 600 pages of chewy, thoughtful, massively interdisciplinary theorizing about how games work, what makes them tick, what makes good games good. While it's copyright 2004, I would say that on a theoretical level almost all of its material remains relevant, even when some of the examples are dated. (I mean, I suspect that Chess is still Chess, you know?) It is also one of the most beautifully organized textbooks I have ever seen. The book is divided into thematic units (Core Concepts, Rules, Play, and Culture; Rules, Play, and Culture represent three outward-expanding schemas through which games can be studied), and each unit into chapters. Each chapter lucidly explicates different frames (e.g. Games as Emergent Systems, Games as Narrative Play, Games as Cultural Resistance), and ends in a 1-2 page summary with vocabulary/terminology bolded for easy notetaking. (I did just that--I copied out all the summaries. If the book had been of a size amenable to photocopying, I would have done that instead, but alas.) There are also recommended readings that further elucidate on the topics of each chapter, a few of which I was already familiar with, most of which not.
Also interestingly, each unit ends with a commissioned game that requires very basic materials (think a deck of playing cards, or some six-sided dice, or a game board printed in the book itself) as well as the designer's notes/diary on the design and playtesting process. The game designers are Richard Garfield (who is best known for Magic: The Gathering), Frank Lantz (Gearheads and The Robot Club), Kira Snyder (Game Designer and Lead Writer on Majestic at Electronic Arts), and James Ernest (Cheapass Games, e.g. Kill Doctor Lucky and Give Me the Brain). I was particularly taken by the beauty and cleverness of Lantz's Ironclad, which is almost two games in one on a 6x8 checkerboard, with one game taking place on the squares and the other on the intersections, and the two inner games interacting with each other in interesting ways.
This is an excellent textbook, and I do not hesitate to recommend it if you are interested in game design theory, but it comes with an ENORMOUS caveat--not something that's bad, but something you should be aware of. It is that this book will not teach you how to design a game. It will teach you a ton of theory about game design and analysis. But it will not lead you through the game design process, or present exercises, or talk about rapid prototyping, or about the business side of the game industry, or any of that. I can in fact imagine someone picking up and reading this book and not ending up with much clue as to how to start designing a game. It would undoubtedly make a fantastic supplemental text to a course on actually doing so, of course. But as far as practical game-designing advice goes, you'll want to go elsewhere.
The most accessible resource I have seen for actually learning to design a game remains Ian Schreiber's online course Game Design Concepts, although it also requires the text Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. That text is well worth it, and is more hands-on as well (I have read it, although God knows I didn't do the exercises--so many exercises!). As an example of how Schreiber's approach differs, one of the first things GDC does is to lead you through the creation of an extremely simple racing game. It's not an original game. It's not even necessarily an interesting game. But it does break that first "What do I do?" block.
okay now i can go eat my ramen for lunch LUNCH LUNCH OM NOM NOM
The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced five finalists for the Best Novel category of the 37th annual Prometheus Awards
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers) (Grove Press/Black Cat)
Blade of p'Na by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick)